A founding father’s country home in Harlem

Today, wealthy New Yorkers boast of luxury estates upstate and in the Hamptons. But two centuries ago, prominent residents chose Upper Manhattan as the location of their grand manors.

Thegrangefromback2013

These scenic estates had names like Pinehurst, Minniesland, and Mount Morris (former home of Aaron Burr and his wife and now known as the Morris-Jumel Mansion).

Hamiltongrangeengraving1880Ex-Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the face of the $10 bill, also had an uptown estate, which he called the Grange, after his father’s ancestral home in Scotland.

In 1802, disenchanted with Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, he “threw himself into building a house in northern Manhattan nine miles from town,” writes Richard Brookhiser in Alexander Hamilton, American.

Hamilton commissioned architect John McComb Jr. (the designer of Gracie Mansion) to build a Federal-style mansion on 32 acres near today’s 143rd Street and Convent Avenue in Harlem.

ThegrangesecondlocationIt was a simple, dignified house on a high foundation amid fields and woods.

“The bay windows had sweeping views of the Harlem River to the east and the Hudson River to the West,” writes Brookhiser.

Front and rear porticos were complemented by side piazzas. On the lawn, Hamilton planted 13 sweet gum trees (for the 13 colonies), gifts from George Washington.

Hamilton only had the house for two years. In 1804, he was fatally wounded during his infamous dual with political rival Burr.

AlexanderhamiltonportraitYet the Grange lived on. After changing owners several times, it was moved to Convent Avenue and 141st Street in 1889.

There, sandwiched between a church and an apartment building (above photo), it fell into disrepair as Harlem became urbanized.

In 2008, the Grange was trucked to its third location: inside St. Nicholas Park at the end of brownstone-lined Hamilton Terrace, with the Gothic City College campus overhead.

Maintained by the National Park Service, the Grange has been beautifully renovated and is open to the visitors.

[Second and Third photos: NYPL Digital Collection]

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5 Responses to “A founding father’s country home in Harlem”

  1. jveazue Says:

    Reblogged this on JANINEVEAZUE.

  2. Beth Says:

    The Parks Service did a great job restoring the Grange and landscaping the property. It’s a great place to visit.

  3. doublewhirler Says:

    Great post! I spent a weekend volunteering with Open House New York up the street at the HIgh Bridge Water Tower and was able to jump on a tour at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. The detail and beauty inside matches the outside. My favorite “hidden” New York.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I love Morris-Jumel, but I’ve never been inside. Thanks for the reminder to go next time it’s open.

  5. Sharon Florin Says:

    I went to the opening ceremony and was charmed by the restoration as well as the accompanying exhibit. Well worth a visit to Harlem.

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